AF’s Weblog

December 16, 2009

Celemony Melodyne Editor Review

Ever since the creation of the first DAW, no other software has caused so much ink to be spilled and generated such expectations. The Direct Note Access technology, which was introduced by Celemony at Musikmesse 2008, is one of those holy grails no one ever thought to be accessible because it allows you to edit single notes of a polyphonic audio recording. Is it some sort of de-mixing? Yes and no! Is it a revolution? You bet!

Celemony Melodyne EditorBefore we dive into the innards of the program, a brief summary about Melodyne is necessary for those of you who don’t know it yet. Celemony created Melodyne in the wake of the Antares Autotune, which allowed you to edit the pitch of an audio recording. Melodyne worked under the same principles (pitch shifting and time stretching with formant control) within an interface conceived for musicians instead of sound engineers. After detecting the notes, you had several tools for pitch, time and amplitude correction, so you could actually edit audio recordings as easily as MIDI parts, under one condition: the audio recording had to be monophonic. The software’s excellent algorithms and idiot-proof user interface gave lots of product ideas to their partners (like Ueberschall, who developed customizable loop banks for the Melodyne engine) and competitors. For instance, Autotune got a new user interface (see the Autotune EVO), several competitors appeared (Waves Tune, Zplane) and the main audio sequencers integrated Melodyne-like functions (Steinberg introduced VariAudio in Cubase 5 and Cakewalk did the same with AudioSnap for Sonar).

While competitors were still trying to catch up with the first Melodyne, Celemony changed the game again by offering individual note editing in polyphonic recordings. During the product presentation at Musikmesse, Melodyne’s boss had a blast changing a guitar minor chord into a major chord using a simple MIDI keyboard. And to top that, he also modified the trumpet of a Miles Davis recording without changing the double-bass or the drum part. Impressed? There are no words to express it. The presentation of the product had such an impact that some people thought it was a hoax. That, together with the time it took for the official release to come out raised serious doubts among the audio community. But…

Melodyne Editor, the first software using Direct Note Access technology (DNA) has finally hit the stores. And it works…

On Familiar Ground

The installation is extremely easy. You will only need the serial number to activate it online on Celemony’s website. The software is protected in two different ways: either you activate the product online, in which case the registration is limited to only one computer (you’ll have to uninstall it first before installing it on another computer) or you transfer your license to an iLok key. Once you did that you can start your sequencer (I work with Cubase) and look for Melodyne Editor in your plugin list.

Celemony Melodyne EditorUsers of previous Melodyne versions, especially those who had the plugin version, won’t feel too estranged at first sight. The user interface (the look and layout) didn’t change much. Under the Settings, Edit, Algorithm, View, and Help menus, you’ll still find the aluminum-like bar hosting the basic parameters. Most of the interface is made up of a sort of piano-roll grid displaying yellow, orange and red events… On the right side, you’ll still find the “Correct Pitch” and “Quantize Time” buttons, as well as three automation-capable controllers that allow you to play with the pitch, the formant or the volume parameters in real time. On the center of the tool bar you’ll find the Undo/Redo icons and the tool box (with the same old icons): from left to right, you’ll find six tools for selection/zoom/scroll, pitch editing (with modulation and drift parameters – a sort of audio pitch bend), formant editing, volume editing, timing editing and note separation editing.

Right below these icons, there are two fields that display the note detected in the segment selected and its distance to the correct note. Finally, on the left side of the bar you have the transfer parameters. Just like with the first plugin version, the first thing you have to do is start the detection process: once Melodyne is inserted in the track that is to be processed, click on the transfer button and start playback in the sequencer. Depending on the algorithm you selected in the “Algorithm” menu, Melodyne analyzes the audio material and generates events on the grid. There are three algorithms available: monophonic (melodic), rhythmic/unpitched and polyphonic. In this review, we will focus on the latter since the two others are already known from the Melodyne plugin.

Before we get into details, we have to mention that, unlike the first Melodyne plugin, you can fully resize the program window and freely zoom in/out via shortcuts. It would have been perfect if it had a button to switch into full-screen mode with a single click…

Now let’s take a look under the hood…

Conclusion

Melodyne Editor is indeed the revolution we expected, thanks to its DNA technology. The algorithm is not infallible and (still?) doesn’t allow to entirely de-mix a song. Nevertheless, there has not been such an exciting invention in the audio industry ever since the creation of Autotune – and the invention of samplers before that. Melodyne is available for a very affordable price considering the huge R&D efforts Celemony had to make to achieve these results.

While we wait for a more comprehensive version that includes MIDI export of the detected notes, we strongly recommend Melodyne Editor to sound engineers (to repair an acoustic guitar recording when the guitarist already left the studio), to musicians who work with loops (and never find the right sample in the right key) and to all sound designers. You will undoubtedly have lots of fun discovering the huge possibilities it provides. However, there is still one thing that remains unclear: what happens to the copyright of the processed samples? If I change all the notes of a Miles Davis phrase, will he still be the owner of the melody I use in my song?

To wrap it up, if I were to have only one gift under the Christmas tree, I’d ask for this one!

Celemony Melodyne Editor
Advantages:
  • Technological feat that revolutionizes audio editing and sampling
  • Ease of use
  • Stunning results when used for the right application
  • Price (considering the R&D investment)
  • Amusing and creative tool
  • One of the best monophonic time-stretching & pitch-shifting tools, maybe even the best…

Drawbacks:

  • CPU consumption: you’ll have to bounce!
  • Left and right channels cannot be edited separately
  • Not multitimbral
  • Disappointing results with some audio material

To read the full detailed review including sound samples see:  Celemony Melodyne Editor Review

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June 22, 2009

Steinberg Cubase 5 Review

Filed under: Sequencers, Software — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:38 am
Introduction

Cubase, one of the titans of the sequencer pantheon, has come out with an attractive looking 5th version, at a time when the sequencer wars are raging more than ever. Let’s take a look…

One of the oldest sequencers, along with Logic (old-timers may remember the golden era of Pro 24 and Notator), Cubase has over the years, imposed numerous ergonomic, technological, and conceptual standards on the competition. Releasing a new version of Steinberg’s flagship software is still an event in itself, although it must be admitted that today, the pretenders to the throne of the king of sequencers are quite numerous. As a result, innovation and excellence are no longer unique to Cubase and, without even mentioning other sequencer heavy-weights (Logic, Sonar, Pro Tools, Samplitude, Digital Performer and Ableton Live), the last decade has seen many new challengers, with varying price tags and popularity, but packed with great features: Fruity Loops, Melodyne, Tracktion, Energy XT, Reaper … In a market as competitive as this, it’s obviously increasingly difficult to stand out. Cubase 4 had its critics even though it launched the VST3 standard, brought its effects and virtual instruments up to date, inaugurated a new media management system and you could finally move effects from one track to another by drag & drop. But it seemed more like they were trying to catch up to the competition rather than really innovating … Even the more original innovations, like management of external hardware (particularly Yamaha’s, since the Japanese manufacturer had recently bought Steinberg) and the emergence of control room targeted features were interesting, but did not effect all users and therefore didn’t necessarily justify the increased software price: around $879! Fortunately, when the impressive Logic 8 came out for around $500 it forced Steinberg to rethink its rates and marketing strategy: you can now find Cubase 5 for around $500! With relatively interesting updates: 4.1 and 4.5 (side chain management for their effects, better routing management, additional sound banks for HALionOne, etc..), and this 5th version, Steinberg is doing its best to seduce us. Let’s get into details…

Conclusion

Cubase 5 is undoubtedly a success and shows progress in several areas. More user-friendly, more powerful and better equipped, Steinberg’s baby is alive and well! Sure, we’d always like to have more (especially virtual instruments), but features like VariAudio, VST Expression, Tempo/Signature tracks, or the multitrack export feature make this an essential update. To the question “Should you upgrade from version 4 or lower”, the answer is a 1000 times yes, but keep in mind that the Studio version of the software doesn’t include (and it’s an important point) VariAudio, amongst other things.

If however, you don’t have a sequencer or you intend to change, the problem is more difficult because after a quick web surf, it was pretty surprising to find out that no brands except Magix, Cakewalk and Ableton, have demo versions of their sequencers! And it’s a shame that you can’t try before you buy at a time when the differences between sequencers is often summed up by a few features and different work-flows. But, speaking as an unconditional Cubase user these past fifteen years, I can’t recommend Cubase 5 enough…

Positives:


A penalty goes to Propellerhead for still not addressing the 64-bit ReWire and Rex format issue
  • Full 64-bit!
  • VariAudio, efficient and fully integrated.
  • VST Expression.
  • Finally there’s a multitrack export!
  • Finally a hi-quality reverb!
  • Tempo and signature tracks, so much easier…
  • A complete all-in-one solution.
  • Printed manuals and video tutorials.
  • Groove Agent One, simple and effective.
  • Loopmash
  • The automation panel
  • The concept of an iPhone application to control the sequencer

Drawbacks:

  • No sampler, no organ, no piano outside of the presets in HALion One
  • Synthesizers that aren’t up to par with the competition

To read the full detailed exclusive article see:  Steinberg Cubase 5 Review

April 20, 2009

Universal Audio – Moog Multimode Filter: The Test

Mojo Filter
Universal Audio – Moog Multimode Filter: The Test

While there is a huge choice of filter effects available on the market today, it could be argued that many of them lack the character and warmth of some of their hardware counterparts and while some claim to capture the sound of vintage hardware, the reality is few have come close. It’s just possible that all this is about to change though, as one of Universal Audio’s latest offerings for the UAD platform is the Moog multimode filter. With a well respected pedigree in emulating prized vintage hardware, Universal Audio are perhaps the best people to attempt the recreation of the classic Moog sound.

MIDI Learn CC

Most of us are accustomed with multi mode filters and have used them in our productions at one time or another. Obviously some genres call for these tools more than others but its safe to say that many of us see them as an integral part of our production arsenal.

For those of you that aren’t so familiar with multimode filters, they are simply filters that allow various modes or models to be set by the user. For example a typical plug-in will present the choice of low pass, high pass and band pass filter models, as opposed to a hard wired low pass filter, seen in some filters and synthesizers.

Some filter plug-ins not only offer this multimode flexibility but additional features such as resonance, overdrive and modulation capabilities are not uncommon and offer the user the ability to create diverse effects.

Gearing Up

Of course one issue some people will have with any Universal audio plug-in from the offset, is the fact that they only run on the UAD1 platform and lack any kind of native support. In the platforms defense, the UAD1 and newer UAD2 are now extremely popular amongst all levels of engineers and musicians alike and the entry level cards are extremely affordable making the plug-ins a realistic option for most budgets

As is the case with all of the UAD plug-ins, the Moog Multimode supports VST, Audio Units and RTAS formats, so most DAW users can join the party. Installation is a breeze as the plug-in will already have been installed with your UAD software. If you don’t see it in your plug-in list fly over to the Universal Audio site and grab the latest UAD driver release.

Once the appropriate UAD software is installed you can enjoy a nice feature supplied by the UAD folks and that’s the full 14 day demos that come as standard. Every plug-in you haven’t yet purchased is available to preview and this is a nice way to try the processors out in your projects before you lay down your hard earned cash.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

This is hands down the best software filter I have ever come across. It sounds truly analog and it has an interface that even a beginner would find accessible. It is slightly CPU hungry but considering Universal Audio has recently released the all powerful UAD2 range of DSP cards and that a light SE version of the plug-in is bundled with the full version, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem for most users. If you are in the market for a filter plug-in and own one of the UAD DSP cards this is certainly a must have. It is so good it is even worth considering buying a card just to run it, as a hardware filter of this quality would cost an arm and a leg.

Stunning emulated analog filter effects
Warm, fat and fuzzy drive input circuit
Easy to understand, well laid out interface
Cost effective

Possibly slightly too CPU hungry for UAD1 owners
Might not contain enough routing for some power users

To read the full detail article see:  Universal Audio – Moog Multimode Filter Test

April 4, 2009

Musikmesse: PreSonus Studio One

Presonus shows us their new Studio One sequencer.

presonus

For more Musikmesse videos and news visit Audiofanzine Musikmesse

August 26, 2008

M-Audio Fast Track Ultra review

M-Audio recently presented their latest addition to the Fast Track family: the Ultra, a USB audio interface with 4 Octane preamps, integrated effects, and advanced routing. Is it a worthy successor to the Fast Track dynasty? Lets take a look…

Fast Track Ultra

M-audio already has quite a bit of experience with audio interfaces, and models such as the Firewire 410 or the Fast Track pro were big hits (technically as well as commercially). Since they’re on a roll, they’ve decided to expand their “Fast Track” USB interfaces with an “Ultra” model, which has evolved out of the Fast Track Pro, which itself evolved out of the first Fast Track.

You can read the full test of M-Audio Fast Track Ultra on Audiofanzine.

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